“Hello,” I said, not recognizing.
He was incredulous. “You still drivin??!!!?”
“You know it!!”
“Ah was wonderin’, 'cause I ain't seen you. It's been a hot minute.”
“Yeah, they had me on another route, it fit better with my schedule but I missed this one, man! I had to get back! It has life out here, you know, energy.”
“You know what I mean?”
“I do. I got it! You want it?”
“Ha! Always. How's your night?”
“Yup.” He sighed. “Actually, well. Tell you what, man. Some dude done laid his hands on his wife, who is my best friend, and cut her too.”
“Yeah. And she wasn't having none of it. She told his dumb ass what time it was and beat him down. And then he cut her! He took a knife out, you believe that bullshit? Talkin’ bout a woman here!!”
“Oh no. That's just wrong. That's all kinds of wrong.”
“So that's what I got goin’ on tonight.”
“That's heavy duty.”
“Yup. So I'm gon’ go find this fool and beat his ass without a knife. Any man put his hands on a woman ain't no muthafuckin' man!”
Time shifts differently in the ‘hood. Is it the nature of the moving parts out here? The pathways and limitations, stopgaps in education and opportunity? You see it in clothing choice and fashion. Here my friends on the bus are wearing what the cool kids in the ‘burbs donned fifteen years ago. There are outliers in either direction, of course, but overall you find less artifice. There are more elemental things to prioritize.
You also find sociocultural movements trickling in at a slower rate. Lack of education and different uses of communications technology, along with divergent cultural concepts of noise tolerance and personal space can make the bus ride on this side of town a unique experience.
But Fourth-wave feminism has, thankfully, found its way here too. You knew it would; movements improve the world in stages. As psychologist Louise Fitzgerald says, every twenty years people seem to remember that sexual harassment exists... These ideas aren't new, but they're cycling around again, and hopefully they'll stick a little more each time. Supportive comments like the above now find their way into street conversation as often as the opposite, rather than being anomalous. I see it as a confirmation that a movement is truly a movement, undeniable and real. I used to listen to guys brag about how many white women they’d beaten up. Now I hear them reflect differently.
“You just can’t beat up women no more,” a man recently mused to his friend one evening. “Used to be, you'd beat ‘em up. Now, you cain’t. Iss a new era.”
What struck me was the speaker didn’t have much of an opinion on the new norm, other than that he seemed entirely okay with following it. Like they were orders from on high, and now that they were standards, well, that’s what we’ll do now. Another fellow: “It’s the 21st century! Folks ain’t supposed to be smackin’ folks no more! It’s called respect!”
Times have changed, and for the better. These are scary prejudices, but word is getting out, and it’s infiltrating the definitions of normal with pleasant subterfuge. Contemporary feminism isn’t just a preoccupation of the middle and upper class, as movements often are when they begin. It’s full-blooded, and has touched minds at all levels of society. The hard work done by folks during the Third wave is in full blooming echo now, as more people in more places than ever before acknowledge the rights of a larger percentage of humankind. We're getting somewhere, slowly.
“Laying your hands” on your wife, as our friend above describes it, used to be legal. Now it isn’t just a prosecutable offense, it’s regularly recognized in the court of street opinion as a moral violation. No tribunal may know to stick up for the abused wife he mentions tonight, but he sure will.
Because it’s important, and he knows it in his blood.